Tag Archives: Privacy

Bad Reasons for Laws: If It Saves One Life

23 Jan

Life happens all around us and sometimes it isn’t very good. News of someone losing their life is almost daily occurrence for most people. We all process this in our own ways. Politicians and pundits however take death and spin it to advance their ideology. After all we the people don’t want people to die, or at the worst die in vain do we? No we don’t and if the law they propose saves just one life then it’s worth it. Is it really?

One of the more recent local examples of this reasoning was when “conservative” Texas Governor Rick Perry tried to force women to take a vaccination for the  Human papillomavirus (HPV)[1]. Back in 2007, Governor Perry decided to by-step the Texas legislature and issue an executive order making it mandatory for girls starting int the sixth grade to get the HPV vaccine Gardasil, made by Merck & Co.

Perry’s reasoning was based on “if it saves one life”. Durring the 2012 US Presidential Republican Primary debate, Perry said the following:

“Did we do it right? Should we have talked to the legislature?” he asked. “Probably so, but at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.”[3]

Fortunately the outcry of the public prompted the Texas legislature to create and pass a bill overridding his executive order. Perry did not veto the bill knowing his veto would be overturned by the legislature. While Perry might have had the best interest of the girls and women of Texas in mind, the execution of that interest was almost as poor as his reasoning.

If people used this type of reasoning to create legislation and laws in order to make the world a “safer” place then we would all live in some type of self contained “safe” bubble. People would survive but no one would thrive. Federal, state or other local legislation, laws or even dictatorial type executive orders should never, ever be created or enforced by either political party just to “save one life”. While the emotional outcry for one life lost in some tragic manner seems to demand an emotional response, wiser people know a knee-jerk creation of legislation, laws or executive orders doesn’t bring about real solutions. More often than not it creates more problems than it solves.

 

Resources

  1. Human papillomavirus – Wikipedia
  2. Texas Gov. Orders Anti-Cancer Vaccine – Washington Post
  3. Perry in first GOP debate: ‘I kind of feel like a piñata here at the party’ – KHOU
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Name Game: Google Play Forces Reviewers to Use Real Names

30 Nov

I can’t stand internet trolls. To say they suck is an understatement. I did take some delight reading about one, Violentacrez, who got taken down and had to face responsibility for his trolling. The keyboard commandos on the internet are definitely a problem for many people and need to be dealt with.

The Google Play store has its fair share of trolls and people tire of hearing them post garbage comments on the site. Apparently Google has had enough and has chosen to “unmask” people who make comments on the site [1]. While on the surface this sounds like a good idea, in the end the results probably won’t be to Google’s liking.

Let’s face it, Google wants to know everything it can about all of the people using its products and services. The more they know the more they can tailor their real money maker (advertising) towards the users of those services. I always recommend people give as little information about themselves as possible either online or offline.

Going forward, if someone wants to comment on an Andriod application they must agree to use their Google+ account full name. Personally I am not a fan of this. I prefer, for better or worse, the anonymity the Internet provides. There is a great benefit to being just a screen name and not a “real” name. Google has floated the full name only idea before, through YouTube (which Google owns) [2].

Comments on YouTube have been for worse than has ever been seen on Google Play. So in an effort to curb the hostile posts, Google has implemented a request to people posting comments to use their real names. It is pulling the information from their Google+ accounts. So far the request is being denied by most people who continue to use their “avatar” name. I can’t say I blame them, though I have never made a trolling or vile comment to anyone there.

Trolls are really nothing more than digital bullies. In real life people know who the bullies are. They usually stay away from them or ignore them. That is the best course of action for the most part in real life. Digitally it can be a bit harder. The best action to take against a troll is to ignore them or, if necessary, stand up to them, preferably with a group of people.

Google’s theory of “unmasking” bullies on-line will only drive them to find other ways to circumvent that system. It will end up being a cat and mouse game which will cost Google more than their current system. Does there need to be action taken to curb the trolls on-line? Sure. Is “unmasking” them in this manner the best way? I would say no.

 

Source –

  1. Google Play Ends Anonymous App Reviews – Information Week
  2. YouTube Asks Users to Post Real Names in Bid to Clean Up Comments – PC World

 

Handy ID: Palm Scanners Approved for Use in Schools, Hospitals

26 Nov

Students at Cranberry Station Elementary School in Westminster, Md., use a palm-scanning device to pay for their school lunches. (Photo: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY)

As if forced RFID tracking in schools wasn’t bad enough, now forced biometric usage is coming down the pipe. According to an article in USA Today, children attending schools in Pinellas County, Florida, are now able to purchase their public school supplied lunches with a swipe of their hands.

While there is something to be said for the convenience factor there are privacy concerns as well.

How does the technology work? The article gives a partial answer:

Using the same near-infrared technology that comes in a TV remote control or Nintendo Wii video game, the device takes a super high-resolution infrared photograph of the vein pattern just below a person’s skin. That image, between 1.5 and 2.5 square inches, is recorded and digitized.

How the system works at the point of sale is not given. Whether the scanned palm is encrypted and the information sent along a hard wired connection or wireless connection (and how that connection may be secured) is unknown.

Not everyone is a fan of the scanners. The parent of one student in a Maryland school is opting his child out of the program. From the article, Michael Webb states:

“My son is not using the technology,” he says. “I’ll be honest, I think it’s horrible. It’s an intrusion into our children’s rights.”

“I understand taking an iris scan of a pilot at an airport, so you know it’s the right pilot flying the plane” he says. “This is that level of equipment they’re installing in a line that serves steamed corn. I don’t think it rises to the level of steamed corn.”

Mr. Webb makes the keen observation of the fact this technology is put into elementary schools begins the desensitization process. He is absolutely correct. The younger children are when exposed over and over again to something they more they accept it as a societal norm as they get older. This idea was said best by Abraham Lincoln,”The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government of the next.”

For now the palm scanners are optional in some areas and cash is still allowed as an alternative. There is no telling though how long it will be until all students and adults are forced to use their own palm, eye or other body part to access products or services. The world keeps getting “braver” every day.

Source –

Palm scanners get thumbs up in schools, hospitals – USA Today

Backpacker Tracker: San Antonio School District to Track Students with RFID

26 Nov

Big brother is bigger every day. Even in the freedom loving, independent minded state of Texas, government encroachment into peoples lives and privacy continues to grow. There are parents and students who are not fond of the idea having the government know every move their child is making. However, the  Northside school district in San Antonio is not the first to implement Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking. [1]

According to a Wired article [2] there have been previous cases of public schools implementing RFID tracking of the students (no word yet if the teachers are tracked as well). From the article:

“A federally funded preschool in Richmond, California, began embedding RFID chips in students’ clothing in 2010. And an elementary school outside of Sacramento, California, scrubbed a plan in 2005 amid a parental uproar. And a Houston, Texas, school district began using the chips to monitor students on 13 campuses in 2004.”

Even in a state as liberal as California, there is a lack of desire for students to be tracked with RFID technology. Many people have no idea what RFID is or does. A quick web search brings up the first link to the Wikipedia article[3] on RFIC which states it is “the use of a wireless non-contact system that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, for the purposes of automatic identification and tracking”.

As with any inanimate object, the use of this technology could be good or bad, depending on who is behind it, the purpose of its use and the execution. Why does a school district want to track students? It is a one word answer: money. Again, from the Wired article:

“If a student is not in his seat during morning roll call, the district doesn’t receive daily funding for that pupil, because the school has no way of knowing for sure if the student is there.

But with the RFID tracking, students not at their desk but tracked on campus are counted as being in school that day, and the district receives its daily allotment for that student.”

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Proof of Purchase: Some Stores Require Scanning ID for Returns or Exchanges

21 Nov

Be careful this coming Black Friday and holiday shopping season, if returning something retailers are asking to scan ID’s such as drivers licenses.

According to a report by the CBS San Francisco affiliate, certain retailers are requiring customers to hand over their ID’s to be scanned for returns or exchanges. The ID scanning is required no matter if the customer has a receipt proving they legitimately purchased an item.

One shopper, Leslie, was required to give her ID when making a return at The Children’s Place, even though she expressed her discomfort and concern to the sales associate. The response given by the associate? It was corporate policy.

The Children’s Place is not alone. In fact they are part of a growing trend in the retail industry. With margins shrinking due to retailers trying to keep the lowest possible price on products and services, the battle to keep profits up is intensifying. One way to combat profit loss is to reduce returns or exchanges of purchased items.

This is where The Retail Equation (TRE) enters the picture. They have software called Verify which, “uses statistical modeling and analytics to detect fraudulent and abusive behavior when returns are processed at retailers’ return counter.” In other words, when a customer hands over their ID to be scanned, the information is recorded by The Retail Equation and stored in their supposedly secure database. This database is then referenced each time a customers ID is scanned and a new return recorded.

How does this affect customers? According to The Retail Equation they are “contracted by retailers to gather their transaction information, store it securely, and analyze the data to develop and follow return policies for those retailers.” Essentially TRE becomes big brother tracking everyone’s return habits and patterns. On the surface the idea might be a good one. But their FAQ page leaves many questions too vague to be fully trusted.

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Speed Reading: Growing Maryland License Plate Reader Debate

16 Nov

This issue is a mixed bag of right and wrong. As with many things, it’s not the technology which is an issue, but the way in which it is used.

In Maryland, the police have a piece of technology which allows them to scan license plates of cars which pass by their patrol vehicles. Once scanned the scanned information is run through the police systems to do a check on criminal records.

In a recent incident noted in the report, license plate readers, also known as an LPR, read the plate of a stolen car and alerted police. In this case the technology was clearly used in an appropriate manner and helped police without doing harm to the innocent public. The best way for technology and law enforcement to work together.

However, the new technology does not stop there. The new technology not only scans the plate, gets any information it can from the information but it also stores all of that information in a centralized database. That sent up red flags at the ACLU.

David Rocah with the ACLU pointed out, “As the data increases over time you get a more detailed picture of Marylanders’ movements. And that is information the government has no business knowing, absent some particular law enforcement need,”

The reason the police give for storing the information is it could help in future cases. While this may be true, the tracking and storing of this information by law enforcement, without the consent of the general public is very disturbing and should be addressed by lawmakers as quickly as possible.

Source –
CBS Baltimore